FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors on Tuesday, April 6, approved a proposed $38.9 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year to go before the public. The proposal is a $673,585 increase compared to last year’s $38.2 million budget.

The board also approved the proposed $477,406 adult education budget to go before the public which reflects a $223,453 local allocation. The budget is separate from the district’s K-12 budget and will appear in a separate article on town warrants.

Identified goals of this year’s budget were the health and safety of the RSU 9 community, increasing on-site learning safely, staff support and retention through competitive wages, transparency and a fiscally responsible and balanced approach.

The state contributes 66.86% funding to the district as long as local towns raise a minimum of 33.14% of the remaining budget. Interim Superintendent Monique Poulin said that the district typically raises more than the minimum and that the proposed budget requests raising an additional $2,711,689.

Farmington board member Doug Dunlap who also sits on the budget subcommittee said that the majority of tax increases to local communities are below $40,000.

“Three (Wilton, Weld, Vienna) of our communities have less than $20,000 of increase…and nine of our ten communities have under $40,000 of increase so I think that’s important information to place before the public,” Dunlap said.

Farmington would have the highest increase of $129,737.

Declining enrollment numbers will impact the district’s amount of essential programs and services (EPS) state funding which contributes to resources deemed essential for students to have an equitable opportunity to achieve Maine education standards. The EPS fund formula is partly based off of a two-year enrollment average.

“We have a decrease in enrollment by about 200 students this year, and we’ve shared that number before, just given the circumstances people are homeschooling their students, sending them to private schools, charter schools, online schools and we don’t anticipate that to be the case in the fall although it’s hard to guarantee that,” Poulin said. 

The district currently enrolls 2,303 students and the two-year enrollment decline average comes to 109 students.

The proposed budget will target funding towards increasing services within special education by transitioning part-time education technician positions to full time with benefit packages.

“It’s been difficult to maintain ed. techs in those positions,” Poulin said. “They end up being oriented to our buildings and then transitioning to different schools in order to access benefits and potentially different wages as well.”

The district also anticipates an increased need of supportive services and will need to fund additional resources such as speech therapy and adaptive skills.

In terms of debt, Business Manager Kris Pottle said this upcoming year will be the last annual $80,000 payment on the Mt. Blue Middle School in Farmington. Overall, the district’s debt has decreased by over $800,000, Pottle said.

The district is also proposing to carryover leftover money from last year’s budget.

 “As we think about how last year closed out, we didn’t have the buses running and just a combination of different things that didn’t happen, athletics and that type of thing, and so that figure was significant so we’re proposing to apply $1.2 million,” Poulin said.

Superintendent Poulin will present the proposed budget to the community for comments and questions on April 13 at 6:30 p.m. The board will vote on the budget’s adoption May 25.

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